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Hornets vs Cavaliers game preview

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The Hornets seek to end their four game losing streak with a victory against the Cavaliers, who are on a losing streak of their own.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Depending on who you ask, the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers might be the easy answer to the question "Who are the two most disappointing teams in the Eastern Conference?" Neither team has lived up to expectations, either lofty (Cavaliers) or optimistic (Hornets), and both teams are seemingly desperate to get their season back on track. One of those teams will get a shot tonight at 7:00 at Time Warner Cable Arena, as they play each other for the distinction of ending a losing streak.

Cleveland, of course, holds the advantage, maintaining a 18-14 record that sits at 5th-best in the East. They also have a few players named LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, which certainly plays in their favor, but James will not be playing tonight which is a HUGE factor into tonight's game. Regardless, Cleveland is still a much better team, even though the season-long loss of Anderson Varejao likely decimates their already-subpar defense.

Meanwhile, Charlotte is missing their starting center also, as Al Jefferson will be out for the next month or so with a strained groin. Their first game without their star didn't go so well for the Hornets, as they struggled to score and control the boards in a 19-point loss to the Houston Rockets. It appears they'll also be without Lance Stephenson and possibly Marvin Williams, which means the Charlotte bench will be a little more stretched than usual. Although, it should be said, they're probably used to it by now.

If the Hornets are going to win, they'll need to take advantage of the Cavaliers' hole in their interior defense. This is where Al Jefferson would come in handy, but injuries are what they are. Cody Zeller is going to need to have a strong game, and Bismack Biyombo will need to continue to draw fouls the same way he did against Houston. That probably won't be enough to create an advantage, so they'll also need a strong game from a big man on the bench. If Williams plays, he might have to play the power forward position, where he's struggled all year. If Williams doesn't play, Jason Maxiell will have to play, a role in which he, also, has struggled all year. If we're lucky, we'll at least get to see minutes from Noah Vonleh.

Furthermore, the Cavaliers rarely foul, so the Hornets will need to rely on their offensive players to get clean looks, because they won't be able to use shot fakes to get bailed out of a tough shot position. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker, in particular, might be frustrated that they can't get to the line, as that's a big part of their respective offensive gameplans. On the other side of the ball, Cleveland has a strong offensive frontcourt (despite LeBron's infamous regression in scoring percentage at the rim), so Biyombo will have to stay out of foul trouble and play his typically strong defense in order to keep the Hornets in the game.